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Australia's Catholic population tops 5 million

2001 Census data released yesterday shows the Catholic population has topped five million for the first time, but that Catholics as a proportion of Australia's population declined by 0.4% to 26.6%.

The figure for the number of Catholics is 5,001,624, an increase of 4.2% since the previous Census in 1996. The fact that this is less than the 6.0% increase in the country's total population indicates that the Catholic proportion of the total population declined from 27% in 1996 to 26.6% in 2001.

The ACT still has the highest proportion of Catholics, with 29.1% (down from 29.8% in 1996). Tasmania is the least Catholic state, with 19.3%.

The number of Catholics among Australia's Indigenous population rose from 81,265 in 1996 to 94,494 in 2001. This represents 23.0% of the total Indigenous population, the same percentage as in 1996.

However Bob Dixon of the Pastoral Projects office of the Australian Catholic Bishops commented that the substantial increase in numbers "is most probably due to improved methods of counting Aboriginal communities in remote locations and, perhaps, to a greater willingness among Indigenous people to complete the Census form".

TABLE: Catholics as a proportion of total population

State 2001 1996
NSW 28.9 29.3
Vic 28.4 29.0
QLD 24.8 25.2
SA 20.8 20.8
WA 24.7 25
Tas 19.3 19.4
NT 22.2 22.5
ACT 29.1 29.8

2001 Census of Population and Housing (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
While Christianity declines, Buddhism grows rapidly (SMH)

ACBC (Pastoral Projects)

18 Jun 2002